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Authors: Tamara Gill

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BOOK: Banished
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His eyes clouded
in sympathy before he took a step back. “Forgive me, Chloe. I didn’t mean to
upset you.”

Chloe huffed out
a disbelieving breath. “Could’ve fooled me.”

“I’m interested
in you, that’s all. I want to get to know you a little better.”

Chloe sighed. “I’m
sorry. I didn’t mean to be sharp. I just don’t want to talk about it. And, well—”

“Well what?” Cian
asked a slight frown on his brow.

Chloe looked up
and met his gaze, his eyes the darkest gray she’d ever seen before. “Well I
don’t understand why a man who owns a castle and is titled is interested in an
unemployed waitress.”

She stilled as a
finger ran down her cheek. “Is that a trick question?”

His voice deep
and husky would tempt a nun. Her skin burned where his finger had stroked and she
could not for the life of her not wish he had touched her in the same way
somewhere else on her body. “No trick. I want to know the truth,” she said.

“For now,” he
said and pulled her along, “the truth is that I want to spend time with you and
get to know you. Nothing more than that.”

Chloe eyed him
with some cynicism before allowing herself to enjoy the wildlife around her. They
walked for some time before they crossed a creek and headed into a dense copse
of trees. Chloe slowed her steps when a feeling of foreboding settled about
her. She let go of Cian’s arm and absently watched him stroll into a clearing
ahead. Old piles of stone lay scattered, the only surviving remnants of an old
building that was once there.

And yet, she
knew exactly what it once looked like. Could picture it in her mind’s eye as
clear as Cian was whenever she thought of him. Which was a lot.

He turned and the
breath in her lungs seized.

He was clad in trews, sweat
glistened on his pecs and down toward a tightly corded abdomen. An overwhelming
urge to lick his skin, to taste the very essence of him assailed her. He stood
with an axe of some kind in his hand, the chopped wood laying scattered about
his feet.

Sensing movement to her side, Chloe
looked to her left and froze when she watched herself but not herself. A woman
who looked the same as she stood silent in the grove, her fluorescent eyes a
multiple of colors burning a path toward her highlander. Chloe watched the
woman disappear then reappear before him, touching the skin with her own
fingers. Chloe clenched her fist as sensation sparked up her arm.

“Chloe?” Cian’s
touch on her arm removed the vision playing out before her. She looked past him
but the woman and Cian were gone, the building once more a pile of rubble. The
prickling sensation under her scalp came back and Chloe stepped back.

“Who are you?”
she asked.

Cian took a step
toward her and clasped her arms. “What did you see?”

Chloe calmed her ragged breathing not entirely due to his touch, but
his gaze was wild and seeking. Seeking what she didn’t know and at this point
didn’t really wish to. “I asked first.”

Cian released Chloe’s
arms and walked toward the rubble that was once his home. He ground his teeth
at his inability to tell her the truth, not because he did not wish to but
because he could not. Zeus had ensured his eternal silence when he’d uttered
those fateful words to seal his fate those many years ago. Chloe deserved to
know the truth of his life. That after reaching a certain age where he could no
longer hide his youthful appearance from his townsfolk, he had to leave, fake
his death, only to return as the prodigal son. And all the while look for her.

He turned around
and watched the wind send wisps of hair over Chloe’s face. Had she not been
dressed in jeans, trail boots and jacket he could almost picture her all those
years ago when they’d first met. Right here.

She had the most
perfect creamy skin he’d ever seen, and eyes that still shone with an
otherworldly light that would never diminish. Chloe was beauty personified.

“I can’t tell
you. It’s impossible for me to do so.” Cian kicked a stone with his foot. “I
want to tell you. You have no idea how much it pains me not to be able to but I
cannot. You must remember your memories on your own.”

Chloe frowned
and pulled her jacket closer around her. “You won’t even tell me who you are?
There is something more going on here.” She paused and looked around as if
searching for someone hidden in the forest. “I know you from somewhere, but I
don’t know where. And what memories? I have no memories of you and me that do
not date back a few days.”

Cian frowned and
thought back over the many years and previous lives Chloe had. Never before had
memories come back to her so quickly. Centuries would pass and the Chloe he
found sometimes never remembered at all. And yet here she was again, and this
woman after only three days had remembered more than he could ever wish. Even
if she denied what her mind was showing her.

“Stop doing
that,” Chloe said, pointing at him.

Cian stepped
back and ran a hand through his hair. “You can feel that?”

“I can. What are
you trying to do, read my mind? You did it to me yesterday as well. I felt you
probing around in there. What are you, Cian, and don’t go telling me anymore
bullshit about being a laird or a history geek.”

Cian laughed.
Hope rose in his chest that Chloe the goddess he loved was strong inside this
woman and about to be reawakened after a thousand years. “All I can tell you is
I am laird of Durness and that I have been for many years.”

She walked up to
him, her hips unconsciously swaying a seductive swing. Cian rubbed his jaw in
attempt to keep his hands off her.

He shut his eyes
when her hands glided up his chest and clasped his shoulders, her sweet breath
whispered across his cheek, “You are something special, Cian McKay and I’m
going to find out what.”

With a will of
their own, Cian’s hands clasped her hips. He pushed at the denim willing the
pants to undo so he could take her. She pulled back and stared at him, her eyes
widening when she recognized the want and need in his soul. Her breasts grazed
his chest and blood flowed quick and fast to his groin. His hands tightened
further.

She smiled a
knowing confident womanly smile. “I don’t think so, Cian. Until I know what you
are and why I need to know, you’ll be keeping your hands to yourself.” She
stepped away and walked back toward the path.

He pulled his
eyes away from her arse and saw a deer standing nearby. The animal’s gaze locked
with his and did not shift. Unease crept along his spine, his druid soul
telling him something his human mind wouldn’t pick up. He looked about the
grove but noticed no similar animal. Then again, he could not hear any animals either.

He started
toward Chloe. A deep sense that he should be beside her assailed him. He
started to run when Chloe stopped and started to back up as if something before
her was dangerous and untrustworthy.

Gods could be
both.

Chapter Six

Such an animal
should not frighten her, but there was something very wrong about a deer that
stood staring at you without fear but wonder. Chloe took another step back and
halted against a wall of muscle. “What is it doing?” She looked up at Cian and
her blood froze in her veins by the menace she recognized in every line of his
body.

“Show yourself,”
he said to the animal.

Chloe looked
back to the dear and frowned. What was going on here? The animal was already
showing itself, what else could it do?

“Oh my god,” Chloe
murmured when the deer stood on its hind legs and made to stand. Then somehow
the form changed shape to that of a woman before her eyes. Feet now stood where
once there were hoofs. A woman in a knee-high, golden silk gown stood looking
at her, a hunting bow and quiver of arrows on her back. Chloe moved behind Cian
not believing what she had just seen.
This isn’t real
, she repeated but
the form stood steadfast, her gaze never wavering from her.

“Artemis,” Cian
said with a slight nod of his head.

Chloe clasped
the back of Cian’s shirt. The woman was beautiful; her long dark hair falling
to the back of her calf and when she smiled the forest seemed to sigh in
contentment. Chloe included.

“Has it been so
many years, Chloe? I have missed you at court.” The lady’s voice although quiet
reverberated about the forest in a multitude of voices loud enough to hear.

“Who are you?” Chloe
asked meeting Cian’s gaze. Well aware this was the second time today she’d
asked such a question.

“Ah, I see she
has not remembered all, yet.” Artemis’s eyes blazed then settled to a light
golden color. “I am Artemis an Olympian goddess. I have come to see for myself
if what is being whispered in the hallowed halls of home is true. It fills me
with delight to see it is so.”

Cian stole a
look at her than back at Artemis. “Why should you care? You never stepped in to
help when—”

“Do not finish
that sentence, druid. I looked over Chloe through all her lives and welcomed
the wrath of Hera and Zeus by doing so. I have not failed in my duty.”

Chloe stepped
away from both of them. Cian was a druid? Were they not supposed to be men who
practiced beliefs against those of the Christian man? Had sacrifices. Human
sacrifices. And what did this woman mean by saying she looked over her through
all her lives, she’d only had one.

“Nor have I,” he
said.

Chloe fought to
calm the fear that rose in her throat. No human man’s voice sounded like that,
as if menace itself crawled along every letter.

Artemis looked
at her. “Do not fear me, Chloe. I do not come to harm you. Only to warn.”

Chloe stepped
further away and looked around. The forest had eyes, she was sure of it. “Warn
me about what?”

“I do not have
long before Zeus will know where I am. Hera, your stepmother has become a
powerful force in Olympus and she is ever vindictive and sly. With her wiles she
has convinced Zeus that this will be your final life. Most at court disagree
having thought you have paid penance for bestowing immortal life upon a human,”
Artemis said throwing a dismissive glance at Cian.

“On what grounds
will I be forgiven?” Chloe asked, dread stabbing at her innards.

“That you take
place in the royal court and forget this mortal plane. Marry a god of your
father’s choice. In fact, he has one already chosen. You would not favor him.”

A chill ran down
Chloe’s spine. “But I’m not a god.” She looked at Cian. “Tell me this isn’t
true. That what this woman says is not what you couldn’t tell me.”

A pained looked
crossed Cian’s face and Chloe didn’t need for him to speak the answer to know
what he was about to say. “It’s true, lass.”

Chloe walked
toward Artemis, anger replacing the fear thrumming through her veins. “Why are
you telling me this? From what I know of the gods, you could face punishment at
such treachery. Why should I believe your words?”

Artemis smiled
and the forest sighed once more. “A promise made many years ago ensures I keep
you safe. I do not care for Hera and her cruel ways. And although I do not care
for your druid, I know you do, in here,” the god said, pointing to Chloe’s
heart. “He is bound and unable to tell you the truth.” Artemis shrugged. “I am
not.”

Chloe turned her
back on them both. This could not be true. She was Chloe Smith, an unassuming Australian
girl who only just graduated high school. She was not a goddess. Perhaps she
had drunk too many whiskies last night. Perhaps she was going mad. Maybe they’d
drugged her …

“I can see you
do not believe me,” Artemis said in her haunting voice. “But you will. In time.”

Chloe shook her
head. She would never believe any of this. “Zeus could not be my father. This
is all absurd. I’m going home.”

Artemis smiled
as if Chloe’s answer was the best news she had ever heard. “I will see you
again, our Chloe.”

Chloe gasped and
stepped back and fell when the woman disappeared before her eyes. She had not
just seen that. Cian walked over and bent to help her up. Chloe slapped his
hand away and stood. “Get the hell away from me. Don’t come near me.”

She started to walk back the way they’d come and refused to turn and
see if Cian followed. Didn’t want to see him or that strange woman ever again.
Tears welled in her eyes. It was all too absurd to believe and she wouldn’t.
Not ever.

Later that
evening Chloe sat on the settee in the cottage’s lounge and read the book on
mythology from cover to cover. So many gods with bizarre names and fables. And
yet the unease and itching sensation in her mind would not abate. Somewhere
deep inside she knew every one of them, their flaws and abilities, their
fickleness. Zeus could not be her father. He was the father of the gods and men
and lord of Olympus. He could never be Chloe Smith’s dad.

A hysterical
laugh bubbled up inside. Why was she even looking them up? What she should be
doing is getting the hell out of this strange town. Away from the weird women
who walk the woods and disappear and the strange druid laird who she ached for
with every passing moment.

BOOK: Banished
12.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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